Wednesday, August 20, 2014

It Is Written Press

This magnificent review of my autobiography is in today's issue of Flagpole, the noted alternative magazine in Athens, Ga., this morning, written by Pete McCommons, editor and publisher. I'm humbled.


I celebrate myself, and sing myself,
And what I assume you shall assume,
For every atom belonging to me as good belongs to you.
I loaf and invite my soul…
Whoa! I thought I’d let his early hero Walt Whitman speak for our prolific hometown writer, Philip Lee Williams, but as his new autobiography It is Written: My Life in Lettersconfirms, even when Phil is loafing, he’s working on a book about loafing. His soul, though, has always had a standing invitation and a place penciled in on Phil’s busy schedule.
In this handsome It is WrittenMy Life in Letters (what a great title!) published by Mercer University Press, Phil accomplishes some amazing stuff. First of all, he gives us his own literary history, how his life evolved from precocious kid to prolific writer. He really spells it out, with a lot of self-deprecation to temper the self-celebration. Another thing he does, which is simply amazing, is that he goes back and reconstructs his own life, something few of us can do. So, we not only get this insight into “one writer’s beginnings,” we get a fine, firsthand account of a life begun and lived almost completely in this area of Georgia: the historical record of one man and of one writer.
Phil is a walking rebuke to all of us who keep meaning to write that book we think we’ve got inside us. Phil decided early on that he would be a writer, and he started writing. Never mind that he had a full-time job and a wife and children: He got up every morning before daylight and wrote his three pages and then cooked breakfast and took out the trash and woke up the kids and came on to work. And at work, he worked hard. He took charge. He managed. And then he went home, had a drink, ate supper, helped the kids with their homework and went to bed. The next morning he was up again before the sun, writing his next three pages. If you do the math, you can see that’s easily a book a year. So, right there is some indication of where his 12 published novels, five non-fiction books, two volumes of poetry and a chapbook came from (plus about twice that many finished but so far unpublished manuscripts, just to give you the full idea of his output, not to mention the poems).
By holding on to all his day jobs, Phil kept his options open to write pretty much what he wanted to write and was able to avoid getting pinned down into any particular topic or genre. He explains all this in It is Written, and he’s got a book load of writer stories: his forays into the literary world of New York; his adventures in Hollywood with the script-optioners, his numerous awards, his relationships with his agents and editors, his friendships with other writers like Raymond Andrews, the inspiration of his wonderful parents and siblings and the emotional center of his existence, his equally hardworking and skeptically supportive wife, Linda. In It is Written: My Life in Letters Phil also stresses the importance not only of writing but of managing the writing—dealing with all the minutiae of getting work published and publicized, another area in which his superior skills kick in with good result.
The opening publication party for It Is Written: My Life in Letters is in the Grand Hall of the Russell Special Collections Library at 300 Hull St. on the UGA campus Thursday, Sept. 4 from 5–7 p.m. This happy event is free and open to the public. Philip Lee Williams will read from and autograph his book, and there will be a cash bar and refreshments. The library will also be announcing that Phil has donated his voluminous personal papers to UGA.
It is Written: My Life in Letters succeeds on many levels: as autobiography, as cultural history, as a revelation to other writers of what it takes and as the record compiled by a bright kid/young man/older man yearning and working to make his mark.

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